Browsing articles tagged with " Samantha Berg"

Brock Turner and porn users share a culture of sexual entitlement

published at Feminist Current  June 13, 2016

Rape culture is porn culture in 2016 — the two are indistinguishable. Since Hustler famously turned Cheryl Araujo’s 1983 gang rape on a pool table as other men watched into pornography, rape culture and porn culture have been increasingly merged. We could place bets on how many days it will be until porn users are offered pornography themed on the recent Stanford rape case.

Consequently, it’s not unfathomable that the average porn user and Stanford rapist Brock Turner share similarities in how they have learned to pursue sexual gratification.

People who masturbate with porn largely think they’re better people than the Stanford rapist, but are they? Let’s examine the possibilities of anti-rape porn users sexually consuming the products of prostitution with integrity.

Both the Stanford rapist and men who use porn believe some women are there for the sexual taking, no questions asked. Like Turner, porn users stumble across drugged up, barely conscious-to-unconscious women and assume consent. Testimony from the porn industry confirms intoxication is ubiquitous during production, and even Hollywood actresses like Jennifer Lawrence often admit to using alcohol or pharmaceuticals to get through simulated sex scenes.

Neither Turner nor porn consumers could possibly get sober consent from the bodies they masturbated themselves with, however that hasn’t stopped them.

Porn users and Turner are similarly confident no one will know precisely how they’re getting off, and if details are made public they’re embarrassed by the loss of privacy and shamed by people’s judgments. Husbands notoriously keep their porn secret from their sex partners, and divorces commonly result after wives find out what their husbands have been doing when they thought no one would see.

Brock’s victim wrote that, while in the hospital, she “had a Nikon pointed right into my spread legs.” Do porn users truly understand what she meant by including that detail? Perhaps some readers thought it “whorephobic” of her to imply there’s something inherently violating about having your genitals photographed.

News reports have revealed Turner took at least one photo of the victim’s breasts after the assault that he shared with friends via text, illustrating again the seamless fusion of rape culture and porn culture. Porn consumers have no way of knowing if the images they’ve seen were captured during rape.

The victim’s letter said no one wants to have sex behind a dumpster, not even with their boyfriend, but why should porn users believe that? There’s plenty of porn showing women agreeing to sex behind dumpsters, bent over dumpsters, inside dumpsters. The term “cum dumpster” is so common in porn that Turner himself has almost surely encountered it in his pornographic viewings, along with “jizz guzzler,” “cum bucket,” and “cocksocket.” Porn users don’t ask themselves if they would accept having sex in the gross places the women they stumble across on the internet are presented as accepting.

Turner said he didn’t know the name of the woman on the ground beneath him. How many porn users do you think know Jenna Jameson’s real last name is Massoli? Most porn users couldn’t even tell you the fake name of the last porn actress they masturbated themselves to while watching her be prostituted. The voyeuristic consumption of anonymous women’s sex is considered completely normal.

The pine needles found inside the victim’s vagina is downright wholesome compared to the things men have shoved inside women to make porn (multiple penises, animal penises, feces, etc), but the same common sense porn users admonish Turner for not employing doesn’t get applied to pornography.

Like Turner’s victim, women in porn will retain no memories of specific users getting themselves off with their bodies. Prostituted women who have had their rapes filmed said it affects their lives to know their suffering is remembered and continually masturbated to by men who have seen what was inflicted upon their naked bodies.

The victim’s statement includes a reference to popular porn series Girls Gone Wild: “To listen to your attorney attempt to paint a picture of me, the face of girls gone wild [sic], as if somehow that would make it so that I had this coming for me.”

Through all my years of anti-prostitution activism, the idea that prostituted women are wild girls who willingly put themselves into dangerous situations remains the most common excuse porn users make. Turner and porn users both insist their belief, “She wanted it” makes the “it” she got the “it” she should have expected to get and, therefore, her fault.

Everyone wants to believe they would be like the Swedish bicyclists in this story, but porn users haven’t shown a willingness to intervene in what they’ve seen so far. Before those Swedes stopped and acted, there were likely a few people who walked along the path, saw what was happening, and found excuses not to intervene. Those of us who choose to interfere with pornographic exploitation no longer watch porn.

If there are any porn users reading this, here’s an experiment for your next pornsturbation session: Ask yourself the question you expected Brock Turner to ask: “How can I know for sure if this woman has genuinely consented to this sexual activity?” If you don’t know more about the women in front of you than the Stanford rapist knew about the woman in front of him, consider how porn culture might be influencing your ostensible anti-rape culture ethics.



Stomping Johns: The Demand Side of Prostitution

Interview with Mickey Z published at World News Trust September 19, 2015

My Interview with Samantha Berg

Mickey Z. — World News Trust

“Marie Antoinette never actually said, ‘Let them eat cake’ when told the poor have no bread, but neoliberals really do callously say, ‘Let them have unions’ when told prostituted women are raped and murdered in strikingly high numbers.” (Samantha Berg)

Samantha Berg is a radical feminist journalist, activist, and event organizer. Since 2003, she has primarily worked against men’s demands for prostitution and pornography, and to those ends she created the abolitionist website and the blog

Samantha’s articles about the sex industry have been published in progressive media for more than a decade and in the past four years she has organized four radical feminist conferences in the United States and Canada.

I became aware of Samantha’s work through some mutual friends and quickly found badass commentary like this from her:

“The reasons a woman only has to make one porn film to be a ‘porn star’ are similar to the reasons a man has only to sign on the dotted government line to be a ‘war hero.’ The ‘war hero’ and ‘porn star’ are calculated lies told by exploiters to keep expendable flesh walking through their doors.”

Needless to say, I suggested we do an interview. She was kind enough to agree and our conversation went a little something like this… 

Samantha Berg

Samantha Berg

Mickey Z.: How did you get started in such work and why do you focus on johns?

Samantha Berg: I was for legalization in my early 20s when I was volunteering for women’s reproductive rights and started earnestly educating myself about prostitution. Soon I learned that no one has less reproductive rights than prostituted women, no one is raped more, no one gets more STDs, no one endures more unwanted pregnancies than prostituted women. 

The harms are obvious yet so hard for people to see because of the pretty girls being dangled to distract them. In conversations I would bring up men’s responsibility to not engage in the destructive behavior of paying for sex and people kept bringing it back to the pretty girls.

In Portland, Oregon, the john-to-prostitute ratio is estimated at 20:1 — 20 johns to every prostitute — yet our words for these men are limited to ‘john’ or business terms like client and customer. There are dozens of ways to call women prostitutes (escort, streetwalker, whore, harlot, hooker, ho, call girl, courtesan, etc.) but a distinct lack of terms for the far more numerous side of the equation. Blame is still largely placed on women, but the radical feminist goal to make the millions of men who pay for sex visible and accountable for the first time in history has been speeding along successfully.

MZ: What role does such high demand play in trafficking?

SB: Countries where men are permitted to pay for sex are countries where sex-based slavery increases. The usual johns just keep on, but they’re joined by hordes of more casual prostitute-using men and that means an increase in trafficking to meet the expansion.

MZ: With, is it safe to assume, a concurrent expansion of men’s violence?

SB: Research from Norway proves that johns will get away with as much violence as they think they can get away with. Common sense says no man who uses prostitutes has to assault the prostitutes they use. The Norwegian research is the latest in a fat pile of evidence proving violation itself often motivates johns (violation of women, violation of laws, violation of vows, etc).

In the Netherlands, johns seek out the most desperate women and children because their powerlessness and addictions make them more willing to do unsafe acts for less money, an obvious outcome when consumers demand the most “bang for their buck.”

If the wives and daughters whom men claim to love and can’t stop the sexual coercion their loved ones commit against them, surely it is unreasonable to expect prostituted women to stop sexually coercive men from committing violence against them. Raped wives and mothers are barely believed, prostituted rape victims are believed even less.

MZ: What else can you tell us about the demand side of prostitution?

SB: Johns are by far the largest demographic involved with prostitution, greater in numbers than all prostitutes and pimps combined. People quibble over what percentage of prostitutes choose it while ignoring that 100 percent of johns choose prostitution.

There are no johns rights organizations. This consumer block of anonymous millions remains adamantly silent because they already have what they want. Men never had to march on Washington to purchase porn DVDs in corner shop convenience stores or to get lap dances in strip clubs.

The phrase “red light district” refers those neighborhoods in every sizable city where men can go to sexually prey on girls with society’s permission. They are the rape neighborhoods, places where rape is a little more okay than elsewhere and everyone knows it.

When sex is “work,” rape is theft. Every time someone calls prostitution “sex work” they affirm for misogynists what misogynists already believe, that a man raping a woman is more akin to a man shoplifting than a man inflicting life-wrecking torture. A man’s agreement to pay $150 for sex makes the rape he commits a crime worth $150 in the public eye.

MZ: Do you feel your research and work has had an impact in educating the general public, countering the neo-liberal narrative, and naming the problem?

SB: I’m realistic about how much one freelance journalist can achieve, but feedback over the many years I’ve been doing this activism says I’ve been at least somewhat successful changing minds. I’m especially proud of my work analyzing prostitution research from Norway, those writings have been translated into several languages and used by abolitionist activists in Europe to press for the Nordic model of criminalizing demand.

As much as I would love to take more credit for the heightened awareness about sex trafficking in the past few years, I honestly think the problem itself has exploded at such a rate that citizens can no longer ignore it or pretend it isn’t happening in their own communities.

MZ: Is there such a thing as a “typical day” for you, doing this work, and what might like that be like?

SB: Because I have a full-time nonprofit day job, evenings and weekends are when the glamorous work of Skype meetings and note-taking, reading news, and writing happen. Most of the daily work lies in responding to emails and otherwise corresponding with people in a timely way. The weeks are punctuated with an educational event here or an activist action there, and these past few years I’ve been organizing one large conference each year, but mainly it’s the small interactions with others that are the real business of building a movement against prostitution.

MZ: What can someone reading this article do to help? 

SB: There’s a role for everyone to do something about sex-based slavery. For some that means joining and supporting abolitionist groups locally and online, for others it begins with ending their own personal consumption of sex industry products like pornography. Start small and reject any impulse to rush in and “rescue” women or girls in prostitution because that’s best left to people trained to deal with violent, organized criminals. 

Feminists are seeing pushback from their success with reframing prostitution as a human rights violation. The better we are at what we do, the stronger the pimps and traffickers have to work to convince men that paying for sex is a safe and ethical use of their money and bodies.

MZ: Is there a question you’ve always wished someone would ask about your work but so far, no one has? If so, please tell us and answer that question now!

SB: It has come up in private conversations, but most people don’t ask me to delve into the emotional risks that come with constantly thinking about and working against organized rape for profit. Secondary trauma from doing this activism needs to be taken seriously if we’re not going to burn ourselves out. 

I’ve gotten better at handling the empathy I feel for survivors as I learn the details of what they endured. These are horrific injuries no one wants to listen to but someone has to, and I have committed myself to listening. If I want to serve women, then I need to take good care of the resource that is my life. Thankfully, the international community of radical feminists I’m a part of sustains me when I’m overwhelmed and want to give up.  Days when I can give back that gift of hope to other women who are slipping into despair are my brightest days.

MZ: How can folks get in touch with you, get involved, and help with this essential work?

SB: I can be reached at my blog or my email ( to connect you with people who can make the most of the skills you have to offer this critically necessary political movement.


Dead Rentboys tell no tales

published at Feminist Current September 1, 2015

Philip Michael Peck picture

Philip Michael Peck, 1990

Philip Michael Peck was a gay boy and my best friend in high school. We met over Whoopie Goldberg in the back of the science room. We hadn’t ever spoken before and he had his usual gaggle of girls around him when one girl said Whoopie was ugly. Phil indignantly exhorted, “Whoopie Goldberg is beautiful!” and the girls scoffed for the half moment it took me to lift my head and confirm, “Whoopie Goldberg is beautiful.” His eyes met mine and we fell in love.

Phil started prostituting at fourteen when older men solicited him in New York City mall bathrooms. From there he went on to do gay pornography and live sex shows. He would send me pictures of him performing drag shows under the name Marissa (my middle name) and tell me how he got free drinks if he performed. I did not get pictures from the two times he drank so much vodka he coughed blood and spent weeks in the hospital.

Phil and his partner of six years, Darren, lived for years as male prostitutes in New York City. They were “rentboys” in the current euphemistic parlance. Once when I visited, Darren kept awkwardly standing around because he had gotten painful shots in the ass to cure the syphilis one of his regular johns had given him.

Phil told me about stealing a bag of cocaine from a john and ended the story with, “Honey, this city better be big enough for the both of us because I can’t see him again.” He ran a small gay escort agency until he got arrested in a hotel overlooking Madison Square Garden.

Phil and Darren both tested HIV positive. Darren got sick and died after a lightning fast three weeks in the hospital. AIDS can be a protracted illness, but the speed at which it took Darren shook me.

Phil kept turning tricks after learning he was HIV positive. No worried lecture from me could change his need for money, and none of my conscience-buckling at the thought of him spreading AIDS could change his reckless behavior so I supported him with the unconditional love of lifelong friends.

Philip died at the age of thirty-two because of men’s belief in their right to economically coerced sex on their own abusive, risky terms.

I used to brag to people with sex positive pride that I had sex worker friends who were living the good life. Doing this boosted my own sexy street cred and I consciously chose not to relay the ugly truths they told me about getting raped and getting various sexually transmitted diseases.

I don’t blame myself for the pains he went through living by prostitution and dying by AIDS, but I can’t help wondering if things might have been different if I didn’t encourage his and Darren’s prostituting all those years.

I think of Phil when I read about how legalizing prostitution is supposed to make prostituted people safer from rape and sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS and syphilis. I think of how Phil worked in the legal porn industry that has had multiple decades to demonstrate how safe legalized prostitution can be, and I think of how very weak the case for legalized prostitution becomes when positioned next to the massive failures of corporate pornographers to protect the pornstitutes in their employment.

I consider the idea that legal prostitution would reduce sexually transmitted diseases not just anti-common sense and anti-science, but also demonstrably not the agenda of the already legal pimps called pornographers. Pornographers have fought hard against protecting sex workers from the obvious risks of industrialized sex-product production, but free market libertarians like Graeme Reid, Eric Sasson, and Tara Burns have convinced themselves this predictable result of capitalism will be different once prostitution without cameras is made legal.

I am glad Matthew Ebert is still alive to tell his tale, and I’m glad the anonymous man writing in the Guardian is still alive to tell his tale, but they can’t bring Phil and Darren back to life so that they can tell their tales too.

I last saw Phil in a coffee shop near Madison Square Garden. He had stopped prostituting, beat his addictions to hardcore drugs, and was struggling to overcome alcoholism as he volunteered with the Gay Men’s Health Clinic. He spoke about a former john who hired him to clean his massive Westchester house, but every time the man made a sexual advance Phil refused. “It’s not worth it anymore, not for all the money he has,” he told me that last time I would see him. He told me how proud he was of the anti-prostitution work I do.

I could spend every day of my life speaking for my dead best friend and it would not put back on this Earth what was taken away by johns who put their power-playing pleasure above other people’s lives.

Samantha Berg is a radical feminist journalist, activist, and event organizer. Her articles have been published in progressive media for over a decade, and in recent years she has organized anti-prostitution political events in the United States and Canada. Samantha’s blog is and her website,, is dedicated to Phil.

Prostitution FAQ

In 2005, I endeavored to write the best prostitution FAQ on the web and it still is.

prostitution faq